State Department Criticizes Venezuela Human Rights Record After U.N. Condemns U.S. Sanctions There

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The United States has released an annual human rights report that criticizes alleged abuses in Venezuela, which is subject to strict U.S. sanctions criticized by the United Nations a day earlier.

The State Department published the 2019 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices on Wednesday, detailing the records of nations across the globe and especially focusing on criticisms of adversarial governments. In Venezuela, the U.S. has disavowed President Nicolás Maduro for over a year and has instead backed Juan Guaidó, leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly. In addition, President Donald Trump’s administration has accused the ruling socialist administration of illegally suppressing Guaidó’s authority.

“Former president Maduro, with the backing of hundreds of Cuban security force members, refused to cede control over the instruments of state power, preventing interim president Guaidó from exercising authority within the country,” the State Department report reads.

The document goes on to accuse the Venezuelan government of conducting arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings, and of holding “a preference for using legal proceedings, financial sanctions, and administrative actions against unfavorable news outlets.” On Tuesday, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet also condemned a number of the Maduro administration’s political practices, but she targeted sanctions imposed by Washington.

“With regard to economic and social rights, the imposition of new economic sanctions is concerning, notably those affecting airline Conviasa, as well as sanctions on the oil industry, which reduce the government’s resources for social spending,” Bachelet said. “Despite exceptions to allow imports of medicines, food and humanitarian supplies, public services and the general population continue to suffer from the impact of over-compliance from the financial sector.”

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Supporters of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro shout slogans at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas to support the state-owned CONVIASA airline during a protest against the sanctions imposed days earlier by the U.S. government, on February 10. Washington has steadily tightened restrictions against the socialist leadership in Caracas since disavowing Maduro and supporting opposition leader Juan Guaidó.
YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Venezuela’s oil-bound economy peaked just before Maduro’s predecessor, United Socialist Party founder Hugo Chávez, died in office in 2013. Since then, the country’s gross domestic product has substantially declined, briefly rebounding before the beginning of another sharp downward spiral in 2017, the year Trump assumed office and rolled out new sanctions aimed at the Latin American country’s petroleum industry.

These restrictions have been widely expanded, approaching the kind of embargo imposed on Venezuela’s close ally Cuba after its communist revolution seven decades ago. Like Cuba, Venezuela has grown closer to Russia, which has held joint military drills and pledged continued military-technical cooperation, along with other assistance in defiance of U.S. policy. China and Iran have also pledged their help.